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Written By: Dan Bacher, April 1, 2014
Hundreds of members of California Indian Nations and Tribes from throughout the country gathered with a crowd of over 4000 people including environmentalists and fishermen to send a clear message to Governor Brown: ban fracking, an environmentally destructive oil extraction practice that pollutes groundwater, rivers and the oceans.
The large Tribal contingent included members of the Miwok, Maidu, Winnemem Wintu, Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa, Ohlone, Pit River, Cahto, Round Valley, Pomo and Chumash Nations, as well as members of the Dakota, Lakota Sioux, indigenous communities, native organizations and activists in the Idle No More Movement and Klamath Justice Coalitions. Many Tribal representatives emphasized the direct connection between fracking and the Shasta Dam raise and the Governor’s peripheral tunnels plan, which will provide water for fracking.
“We should call the Governor ‘Westland’s’ Brown,” said Chook Chook Hillman, a member of the Karuk Tribe and the Klamath Justice Coalition a group has organized many direct action protests to remove the Klamath dams, stop the violation of tribal gathering rights by the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called “marine protected areas,” and to stop the Westlands Water District legal attempt to raid Trinity River water.
“Brown is setting aside all the environmental rules in drought in order to ship water south,” said Hillman, who held a banner proclaiming, “Stop Fracking Around – Undam the Klamath,” with other members of Klamath Justice Coalition. “Fracking will take good water, put chemicals in it and the it will come out toxic forever. Fracking will affect all us - fracking is a terrible use of water,” water that could be used for people and fish.”
The event, organized by the Californians Against Fracking, featured diverse speakers including environmental justice advocates, farmers, student activists and other groups opposed to fracking. Hundreds of organizations, ranging from grassroots groups to large NGOs, helped to organized the rally.
Chief Caleen Audrey Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu, led the opening ceremony and prayer. She took aim at the Governor’s peripheral tunnels plan – the “Brown Water Plan,” as she calls it.
She emphasized, “Here at the Capitol a lot of Brown water planning is going on. This water is our medicine – it comes from the sacred places where the medicine comes from. We struggle to continue to take care of our waters – there is no other place we can go to practice our religion.”
After the rally was over she led a group of Winnemem Wintu and their supporters down to the Sacramento River at Miller Park take the "Water Challenge" to defend waters, rivers and fish population. Around 20 people cautiously waded into and then swam in the muddy waters.
"When we accept the winter water challenge and go down to our rivers, springs, lakes and oceans to make a heartfelt commitment and challenge others to do the same it makes the waters happy,” she said. “All over California the water ways are waking up with good blessings! Now accept the challenge to take the message you got to the Capitol and tell the world...no fracking chance will your Brown Water Plan destroy our sacred waters.”
Mike Duncan, Round Valley Reservation tribe member, said, “I’m here for tribal water waters and to stop the raising of Shasta Dam. It’s the future – it’s our responsibilities as tribal people to stop fracking. Fracking is another broken treaty as far as I am concerned.”
Penny Opal Plant, an organizer for Gathering Tribes and Idle No More, pointed out that the battle against fracking and other destructive methods of oil and gas extraction is a worldwide struggle, including Lakota resistance to the XL pipeline, the resistance of Canadian First Nations to fracking and battles of indigenous people against destructive resource extraction throughout Latin America.
“Mother Earth is expecting us to be strong. We are her immune system. We are her cells activating on behalf of her fish, our two-legged relatives, those who fly and all of her life," Plant said.
"Fracking" is a method of oil and gas production that involves blasting millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, under high pressure deep into the earth to extract oil and gas but it can also pollute local air, water, and endanger the lives of people, fish and wildlife, according to Corine Fairbanks, Southern California American Indian activist.
Fracking exposes people to radioactivity and numerous toxic chemicals such as lead, arsenic, methanol, and benzene. The chemicals used in fracking have been linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer.
Besides posing a big threat to human health, the pollution to California groundwater supplies, rivers and the Delta that will result from fracking and acidization will devastate already imperiled populations of Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.
“Fracking is also known to trigger seismic activity and earthquakes,” said Fairbanks. “Anti-Fracking efforts have been led by California Native Nations throughout the state and on February 28, 2014 the Los Angeles City Council passed a ban on fracking within its jurisdiction. This makes Los Angeles the first oil-producing city in California to call a halt to the practice.”
Fracking has been documented in 10 California counties -- Colusa, Glenn, Kern, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Sutter, Kings and Ventura. Oil companies have also fracked offshore wells in the ocean near California's coast, from Seal Beach to the Santa Barbara Channel. Fracking may have been used elsewhere in California, since state officials have monitored neither or tracked the practice until recently, according to Fairbanks.
Fairbanks emphasized that Indian people have been fighting against hydraulic fracking and toxic dumping for many years.
"Toxic dumping and hydraulic fracking like efforts have been happening on and around Reservations for decades, causing a multitude of problems for our people; birth defects, and twisted strands of cancer,” said Fairbanks. “ No one took notice or interest when Native people wanted this stopped, now all of a sudden when it is becoming more of threat in non-Native communities, there is alarm and action.”
Gary Mulcahy, a member of the Winnemen Wintu, emphasized the connection between the raising of Shasta Dam, the peripheral tunnels and building of new dams that many tribal members, fishermen and Delta folks made with their signs and banners at the event.
“It, interesting how fracking would bring out 4,000 to 5,000 people to a demonstration because this fracking, one way or the other, will hurt the water supply,” he noted. “But when you talk about agribusiness taking water drip by drip and drop by drop by building canals, raising dams or building more dams that will supply more water than the system can deliver in the first place, only a few voices are heard like a candle in the darkness.”
“Fracking involves your water from north to south, from east to west, water that is ultimately controlled by big corporations, including agribusiness and oil companies. If fracking is bad, then so is raising dams, building new dams and building the tunnels,” he concluded.
Adam Scow, California Campaigns Director of Food and Water Watch and one of the co-founders of Californians Against Fracking, said the anti-fracking activists will keep building the movement to put pressure on Brown.
“Water is a human right and fracking is a violation of n/ahuman rights, as are the twin tunnels,” he concluded.
Hopefully, this rally will be followed by even bigger rallies and demonstrations in Sacramento and throughout the state opposing fracking, the peripheral tunnels, the Shasta Dam raise and the building of new dams.
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